The Sun newspaper today reported that 13 Lowell residents, Asian American and Latino voters, will challenge the city’s at-large voting system for city council and school committee in court, charging that the current system discriminates against voters from ethnic and racial minority groups. Read the story by Amaris Castillo here.
For years, decades maybe, there have been discussions about restructuring the municipal elections process in a way that will (1) encourage more diversity in candidate choices and (2) yield voting results that better reflect the range of people who live in the city.
The recent decision to increase the compensation for councilors and school committee members was a positive move that could bring more people into the process. The responsibilities are significant and require substantial time for meetings, constituent dialogue, public events, etc.
The goal of electing a more geographically diverse set of office holders has been a matter of debate in Lowell. Many communities have adopted election systems with at-large and district representatives. Office holders past and present argue that there is no reason that they cannot fairly represent the interests of all the people in at-large systems. Nevertheless, the federal Voting Rights Act addresses the mechanics of election systems as integral to outcomes. Lowell is one of very few cities in the state with at-large voting for municipal offices.